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Book Reviews • THE CONTEMPORARY SPANISH THEATER (1949-1972), by Marion P. Holt. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1975. 189 pp. . It is an unfortunate fact that contemporary Spanish dramatists (including Buero Vallejo, whose plays have been performed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe ) are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. No doubt, this is due to the lack not only ofgood translations but of adequate critical attention. It is to be hoped that Professor Holt's overview of the Spanish stage from 1949 to 1975 will help remedy the plight of those playwrights whose works have not received the recognition they deserve. In his introduction, Holt provides important information on practical aspects of theatrical production in Spain, directors, performers, theater journals, and government censorship. He minimizes to some extent the importance of the latter phenomenon, however. Almost half of the book is devoted to the pre-civil-war dramatists who began to write in the 1920's and early 1930's, and resumed their careers after the conflict. Holt analyzes the Pirandellian comedies of L6pez Rubio with their mingling of reality and illusion; the aburdist farces of Mihura, Spain's major writer of humoristic theater; the moralistic thesis dramas of Calvo-Sotelo with their conservative social philosophy; and the historical dramas of Peman, a writer well-known for his monarchist sympathies and traditional Catholicism. Holt then discusses the sentimental comedies of Ruiz Iriarte, of the first post-war generation, and the light entertainment of Alfonso Paso, Spain's most prolific and commercially successful playwright. Eschewing the label "theater of evasion," used by more committed critics, Holt defends the best of such writers as L6pez Rubio and Ruiz Iriarte as works of poetized reality not to be confused with mere escapist fare. The 1949-50 season, which marks the resurgence of serious theater after the Spanish Civil War, saw the premiere of superior works of both playwrights. Nevertheless, it was the opening, in the same season, of Buero Vallejo's 305 306 BOOK REVIEWS Story ofa Stairway, with its portrayal of the hopes and failures of three generations of Madrid tenement dwellers, which gave a new direction to the Spanish stage. Buero, now Spain's most significant living playwright, together with Alfonso Sastre, the author of frequent critical essays on the social purpose of drama, has been instrumental in creating a theater of awareness which contrasts sharply with the conformist "establishment" fare of their predecessors. Since Twayne volumes exist on the theater of both Buero and Sastre, Holt is justified in devoting somewhat less space to them than their importance merits. Holt's last chapter deals with a second group of post-war dramatists who emerged between 1955 and 1965, and who follow in the path of Buero and Sastre. Their socially committed and critically realistic theater has been accurately described by critic Ruiz Ramon as a "theater of protest and indictment." This group - consisting of Olmo, Buded, Muiiiz, Gala, and M. Recuerda - has been able to get only a relatively small number of their plays actually staged. Because of prohibitions by the censors, they have come to be known as the "lost generation." In this reviewer's opinion, Holt (who prefers the plays of poetized reality written by Lopez Rubio, Ruiz Iriarte, etc.) devotes much less attention to this group than it merits. In addition, it would seem to have been preferable to include at least a brief discussion of Ruibal, Martinez Ballesteros, and Bellido, most of whose works, like those of the realistic group mentioned above, have been denied performance by the censors. However, as Holt states, an analysis of their plays is available in George Wellwarth's Spanish Underground Drama. In conclusion, Holt's emphasis is quite different from that which other critics , including the reviewer, might have chosen. However, it does reflect the preponderance on the Spanish stage of plays which have tended to avoid the harsher aspects of reality. In general, Professor Holt's book is a good overall view of the contemporary Spanish theater which is enhanced by his broad knowledge of recent European and American drama. MARTHA T. HALSEY The Pennsylvania State University BERNARD SHAW: A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY, by Daniel Dervin. Lewisburg: Bucknell...


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